2006 Ripken Vineyard Petite Sirah
Petite Sirah •Ripken Vineyard
California: Lodi: Woodbridge
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
In a field of smack you in the face Petite Sirah, today’s selection is a special wine that stands out as a wine of great balance and delicious flavors
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Mission Codename: The Midnight Raid
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Secure a Petite Sirah that delivers a refined, balanced and food-friendly drinking experience, without slapping your face off
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Sheldon Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Petite Sirah
Winemaker: Dylan Sheldon
Backgrounder: Our Operatives love great Petite Sirah. California produces some of the most exceptional examples of this varietal, but often the wines are overly-concentrated or too tannic for all tastes. Today, Agent Red locates a Petite Sirah that has poise and balance – without sacrificing great aromatics or deep flavors. This particular Petite Sirah has a history as rich and as fun as the wine itself. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below for a full briefing
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Viewed head on, this wine appears dark and inky, with a deep purple heart. Tilt the glass, however, and view the wine from the top and it shows as a beautiful pure garnet with pinkish edges. When swirled, this wine continues to spin for a long time before finally settling. After a while close-spaced legs of varied widths appear, moving slowly down the glass
Smell – On opening, this wine delivers a massive rush of pure blueberries, vanilla custard and fresh eucalyptus. The eucalyptus is exactly what you would smell if you pulled a leaf from a eucalyptus tree, crushed it in your hand and inhaled deeply. The smell is 100% authentic and quite surprising. A hint of mint follows. Once the wine breaths for an extended period, the eucalyptus almost disappears, replaced by earthy blueberry, dark chocolate, dark cherry and soft spice
Feel – A very wet wine at the entry, soft and somewhat round – then medium tannins appear at the mid-palate, quickly drying the tongue and the roof of the mouth
Taste – Deeply layered and highly concentrated flavors of ripe black plum, ultra-ripe blackberry, blueberry and smoky cassis, followed by dark cherry and sweet dried fall leaves
Finish – Dark mixed stone fruit flavors linger as smoky notes make a brief appearance, then all flavors tail off gently
Conclusion – This is a very exciting wine, that bucks the usual Petite Sirah trends, without alienating those who consider themselves Petite purists. This is a wine of concentrated flavor, as you might expect from a Cali Petite, but there is balance and refinement within as well. Bright flavors intermingle with more hefty notes and the wine has a brightness to it that shows off its ability to be enjoyed with food – rather than overpowering it. The alcohol is kept in check as well, clocking in at a modest 14.2%, again, something of an aberration. Decant for best results. I tried the wine right out of the bottle and then again after it was decanted for several hours. The wine is ready to drink after about 20 minutes, but what a difference several hours made. The decanted wine becomes softer and more delicious. If you love great Petite Sirah, I am certain that you will enjoy today’s superb offering from Sheldon Wines
I had the great fortune to spend an afternoon with Dylan Sheldon recently. If you ever find yourself in on the west side of Sonoma County, I encourage you to find your way over to the Sheldon Wines tasting room in Sebastopol.
Give yourself ample time to taste your way through their wines and be prepared to learn everything about their wines. Dylan is fervently, passionately, devoutly dedicated to his craft. Give him the opportunity and he’ll educate, entertain and even amaze you.
When I first learned of Dylan’s wines, it was his Pinot Noirs that had me most interested in a tasting. Indeed his Pinot is superb, but it was his Petite Sirah that really got my attention.
Most Petite Sirah are built to be powerhouses, with massive extracted flavors, and huge tannins. I like my Petite this way, to be sure, but I have always found the varietal to be somewhat limited in its compatibility with foods. I also found that my palate gets fatigued very quickly if I have more than a glass.
Dylan’s Petite Sirah is a different sort of wine. His is a Petite built for elegant sipping and perfect pairing – but without sacrificing the deep flavors and aromas that you expect to find in a Petite Sirah. This wine holds it all in perfect balance.
How did he make such a great wine? After he contracted a few choice rows in the vineyard in Lodi, Dylan and wife, Tobe, would sneak up to the vineyard in the middle of the night to secretly prune the vines! They would aim their car headlights at the vineyard, hop the fence and go to work with pruning shears. The result were grapes that were trained to perfection.
Dylan’s Petite was so fantastic that it impressed the vineyard owner, who quizzed Dylan on his secrets. Previous wines from this vineyard did not compare at all. Dylan revealed the truth to the grower who, rather than get mad, asked Dylan to teach him how to tend the vines!
When you stop in to see Dylan and Tobe, tell them you found his wine on The Wine Spies. Be sure to ask him to tell you the full story.
Enjoy this great wine!!
Wine Spies Winery Check:
The location of Sheldon Wines tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Our 2006 posseses more structure than the 2004/2005 yet displays better integration than 2003. She’s still quite young, so for the rest of 2008 we reccomend you decant and let the wine breath for 10/15 minutes before serving. Classic ‘Guard Road’ Petite Sirah, loaded with aromatic notes of sun warmed blackberry, bittersweet freshly cracked pepper & a dash of smoky vanilla. Velvety texture with a violet crimson hue. Full bodied, ripe tannins & balanced acidity… what more could you want?
Harvested on Oct. 4th at an average ripeness of 24.5 brix. Crushed to ½ ton macro bins, fermented with a small amount of the clusters left whole & gently basket pressed after 10 days on the skins. Aged 14 months in a mix of 20% new & 80% seasoned French oak barrels. Bottled Dec. 11th 2007.
Because of low yields and meticulous hand sorting, production is always limited. 380 cases made. As these wines age, expect natural sediment to form. Our wines are unfined/unfiltered, because sediment is good luck & contains magic flavor chrystals.
This is our fourth vintage working with this exceptional fruit grown on limestone soils 19 feet below sea level. The Guard Rd. block is located in the western most planted area of the Lodi appellation. Consistently it is the last vineyard section to be harvested, we find tremendous character in these grapes, and we believe you will enjoy the results…
About The Winery:
In the spring of 2000 I was working as a winery grunt intern on the other side of the World, Margaret River in Western Australia to be exact…hand loading clusters of Estate grown Chardonnay, into an old Champagne press. I’d been working over 90 hours a week for as long as I could remember, eaten more Vegemite sandwiches than I could count, I was a bruised, bee-stung, sticky, & exhausted mess… I had an ear to ear grin through it all. After the last grapes were pressed, the crew was headed out on the town for a well deserved pint! “Oi!… there’s a phone call for the Yank!” The tasting room staff shouted out. An old friend had tracked me down with a job offer. There was an opportunity to open a Wine Bar back in Carmel, California, with a side gig teaching wine appreciation classes, was I interested? After vintage I returned to the States and took up the offer.
“Cepage” Wine Bar opened late in the Summer of 2000. “If you build it they will come…” Enter: Tobe Weatherly, a recent transplant to the area, after a decade of studying geology in Boise Idaho (and sneaking in 100+ days a year of skiing). Tobe became a regular at “Cepage”, it was soon discovered that we shared a similar palate, and passion for itinerary-free travel. Just a few months after coming to the Monterey Peninsula she started talking about an extended trip. She knew I had worked overseas in wineries & came by regularly to ask questions. I thought this was a great idea for her, I gave it the hard sell…it worked so well I convinced myself too!
We started planning our own separate trips to work vintage. I had sent out resumes’ to New Zealand and had talked to Tobe about places she might want to visit, and how to get on as an intern at a winery. As we became better friends we talked about maybe meeting up somewhere in Australia, New Zealand, you know… if it happened to work out that way. My resume got passed around in New Zealand until it reached Gordon Russell @ Esk Valley Estate winery in Hawkes Bay. I was offered a position for the 2002 vintage, which I gladly accepted. I mentioned I had a friend looking for an intern position, and he said “sure thing, we can always use another set of hands!” So two separate trips became one.
We shared a flat at the winery with the other crew members, and worked side by side for months under difficult conditions, often wet, cold, tired and hungry. We loved every minute of it, the barrel work, the crush work, monitoring the vineyards, all of it. And most importantly that we were doing the work with each other. Some would call it serendipity.
Tobe and I were married on a sunny afternoon May 1st, 2002, surrounded by vines turning to brilliant fall colors, barefoot in the ‘Terraces Vineyard’ overlooking the winery at Hawkes Bay. The next 6 months were spent traveling and studying the wine producing regions through nearly a dozen countries. We returned to the States to start our own fledgling wine label, never mind that we didn’t have a winery, or equipment, or grapes, or funding for any of it!
The Universe seemed to conspire to help us along the way, we were able to lease an empty winery, & borrow an old basket press. We each worked two full time jobs, auctioned off the wine cellar, sold our cars, & pretty much anything that wasn’t nailed down to fund the first vintage, which produced 420 cases from 2003. In 2004 we ramped up production to just over 700 cases, and in 2005 we broke into the 1,000 case mark. We’ll be staying a small two person operation, to be able to know what’s going on in every row of every vineyard we use, to sort each cluster by hand, to focus on the subtle nuance of every individual barrel. For us, winemaking is not about aggressive manipulation or beverage manufacturing. Winemaking at Sheldon Wines is about building the aromas & flavors in the vineyards, then ushering them from grape to glass. In other words…“Get the best fruit possible, listen very carefully to what it has to say & don’t screw it up!” And most importantly, to never forget, that we are Alive…Awake…Free…most likely delusional.
About The Vineyard:
Ripken Vineyard – ‘Guard Road’ – The Guard Road block sits on the south west corner of the Lodi appellation; nearly 10 miles to the west of the majority of the Lodi vineyards are planted. This vineyard sits 19 feet below sea level, on a bed of ancient sea floor. Soils are sandy/silty clay loam, high in calcium and iron with excellent root penetration. An extensive 5 year climate study identified the Guard Rd. Block to be the coolest growing region in the San Joaquin valley, with temperatures breaking the 90 degree barrier only a few days each year. Evening temperatures here are 5 degrees cooler on average than Lodi; in fact the Guard Rd. Block sees nearly identical degree days in heat units to St. Helena. There are only 15 acres of Petite Sirah planted at the Guard Rd. Block. These low yielding, dry farmed vines are pruned to a bi-lateral cordon and spacing is 5 by 10 feet. The clone 3 Petite Sirah is the only know certified virus free clone.
Over achieving? Underdog? A diamond in the rough? What ever you call it, the ‘Ripken Vineyard’ Guard Rd. Petite Sirah is world class fruit. It typically flowers a week earlier than the rest of the Vineyards, then slowly ripens extending its hang time by 3 weeks, developing intensely aromatic, flavorful berries that posses a balance of refreshing acidity and supple tannins that is unusual both for this varietal and appellation. One could even call it an ‘Elegant’ Petite Sirah, which until recently many of my fellow winemakers considered an oxymoron.
Sub-Appellation: Ripken Vineyard
Bottling Date: December 12, 2007
Fermentation: open top macro
Oak: 20% New French, 80% Seasoned French
Release Date: April 14, 2008
Special Designation: Guard Road Block